Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book Review: Starting and Closing by John Smoltz and Calico Joe by John Grisham

John Smoltz will be signing copies of "Starting and Closing" on Saturday from 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. at Schuler Books and Music, 2820 Towne Center Blvd. Eastwood Towne Center, Lansing. This is a limited, ticketed event, with tickets available free, but only with a purchase of the book. Reservations may be made by phone at (517) 316-7495. Smoltz will not be signing memorabilia.____________________________________________________________

The baseball season is now in full swing - maybe it's time to pick up the latest books on the subject - in fact and fiction.

"Starting and Closing" by Lansing Waverly High School grad John Smoltz (William Morrow, $26.99) is an interesting biography of the former All Star Atlanta braves pitcher.

Subtitled "Perseverance, Faith and One More year", the biography of the Cy Young Award winner is co-written with best-selling sports author Don Yaeger.

It covers the All Star pitcher's long career in a non-linear fashion, including his signing by the Detroit Tigers after he was chosen in the 22nd round of the 1985 free-agent draft.

It relates his true emotions when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 1987 for Doyle Alexander and details his quick rise to playing major league baseball.

The biography deals with a wide variety of subjects, including the importance of his Christian faith and how it helped him survive the pressures of pitching in the major leagues. Golf also plays an important role, allowing him to relax off field and release stress.

The best part of the book is the 16-page section of mostly color photographs, which showcase Smoltz's early Lansing baseball career, assorted family members and later noteworthy achievements.

Unfortunately, Smoltz doesn't really go into much detail about his baseball experiences in Lansing, other than just providing basic facts.

He does detail his later painful arm problems and pitching difficulties, when he switched from starting to relieving and back again.

This isn't really a tell-all book about baseball. It relays minimal intriguing inside information, but explores attitudinal challenges that he faced in his many seasons as an exceptional baseball player.

Smoltz finished his career with the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. He's currently a sportscaster for the Atlanta braves and is chairman of King's Ridge Christian School in Atlanta.

"Calico Joe" by best-selling author John Grisham (Doubleday, $24.95) is considerably more enjoyable, but it's not the usual type of legal thriller that Grisham's made famous.

It's a fictional account of the meteoric rise and short memorable career of "Calico Joe" Castle, who played for the Chicago Cubs in 1973.

The bittersweet tale is told from the viewpoint of the son of a New York Mets pitcher. While parts of the novel are predictable, it's still great fun. Grisham's overall enthusiasm for the sport shines through; the conclusion is both memorable and touching.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,
is a diehard Detroit Tigers fan and has reviewed books regularly since 1987.
This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, May 27, 2012.

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